Nathaniel Everett Green, an English artist and astronomer, was born Aug. 21, 1823. In the summer of 1877, there was a favorable opposition of Mars, which means Mars was directly opposite the sun from the earth, high in the sky at midnight, and as close as Mars can get to an earth-bound observer. Green packed up his telescope and headed for Madeira, hopeful that the seeing would be better on the mountainous island. Indeed it was. When he returned to England, he presented his drawings of Mars to the Royal Astronomical Society, and they were published in 1879 (see second image above). They are some of the finest renditions of Mars ever made, with Green even doing the lithographs himself (see detail, first image). Also included was a full map of Mars (third image). The nomenclature system he used had been devised by Richard Proctor in 1867, naming the supposed continents and seas after astronomers, so you can pick out the Beer, Maedler, and Herschel continents, and the Dawes and Del La Rue oceans (see detail of map, fourth image). Unfortunately for Green and Proctor, Giovanni Schiaparelli was also mapping Mars in 1877, and he came up with a different nomenclature system, using classical terms such as Syrtis Major and Solis Lacus to designate the formations. Schiaparelli’s scheme won out, and Green’s map slipped into obscurity.

No doubt part of the reason for the appeal of Green’s Mars sketches lies in his abilities as a landscape painter. His pastels and watercolors are abundant but hard to find; we reproduce one above, a view of Jerusalem from Mount Zion, that he made on a visit to the Near East in 1884 (fifth image).

Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City. Comments or corrections are welcome; please direct to